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Singapore Goes ‘Ozone-Friendly’ by Implementing Ban on Chlorofluorocarbons

UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

Fast-food restaurants, manufacturers and consumers are rallying behind Singapore’s ban on products containing ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons.

In a move that pushes Singapore to the forefront of the battle to halt CFC depletion of the ozone layer, the government in November gave industries three months notice of the ban on importing or manufacturing aerosol products containing CFCs. Production of sheets of polystyrene made with CFCs also was banned.

The ban went into effect Feb. 5. Such outlets as Burger King now use paper boxes for takeout items and supermarkets are well stocked with “ozone-friendly” aerosol versions of hair spray, deodorant, furniture polish and insecticides.

“We are aware of the danger of CFCs on the environment,” said Dr. Teo Hong Hoon, director of a major producer of polystyrene sheets used to make disposable crockery, which has changed its manufacturing process.

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“Although the switch has increased our cost by about 5%, we are not afraid of losing to our competition as our quality is better,” Teo said.

Violators of the ban face fines of up to $6,000 or two years imprisonment.

The only exception to the ban is pharmaceutical aerosol products containing CFCs because available substitutes have been deemed medically less effective, particularly those used by asthma and bronchitis sufferers. The U.N. Environmental Program has found that only 1.5% of the world’s CFC tonnage is used in medicines.

Singapore, said Environment Minister Ahmad Matter, “will continue to do our part to fight pollution and environmental degradation. We can do better for the well-being of Mother Earth.”

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Scientists have identified CFC emissions as one of the primary contributors to depletion of the ozone layer, which acts as a shield and prevents high levels of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the earth’s surface.

A hole the size of the United States in the ozone layer hovers above Antarctica and researchers report a 3% decline in ozone levels over populated areas of Europe, prompting the European Community to set a July 1, 1997, target for a ban on CFC use.

Medical experts predict that depletion of the ozone layer will increase the incidence of skin cancer and eye damage. Scientific studies also have indicated it could damage plant and ocean life.

Developed in the United States in the 1930s as refrigerants, CFCs also are used in aerosols, cleaning solvents and the manufacture of plastic foam materials.

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“Ozone-friendly substitutes for use in aerosol products and the manufacture of polystyrene sheets are widely available,” a ministry spokesman said.

Besides environmentally safe hair sprays and deodorants, major insecticide manufacturers such as Hunter, Shelltox, Mortein and Baygon have come up with their own range of CFC-free alternatives.

Checks of major supermarkets showed products with CFC propellants were gone from the shelves.

Hailing the ban, the Consumers Association of Singapore is urging the island-state’s 2.7 million residents to ensure the products they buy are labeled “ozone-safe” or “no CFCs.”

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“People can do quite a lot,” said Consumer Association Executive Secretary Ivan Baptist, by getting rid of any products in their homes containing CFCs. “It’s a matter of demand and supply and the supply must fit the demand for no more CFCs.”

McDonald’s, the largest fast-food chain in Singapore, is phasing out foam packing used for hamburgers and switching to paper-based containers.

Although McDonald’s was the first Singapore fast-food operation to stop using CFCs in foam packaging, marketing manager Fanny Lai said the company has tested various packaging options in the United States for several years.

The new paper and paper-based packaging will be lighter and thinner than the foam equivalent, she said.

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